Miguel Cotto was on another level Saturday in New York City. | Rich Schultz/Getty Images Sport
Inside the hallowed grounds of New York City's Madison Square Garden, thousands of rabid Miguel Cotto fans were hoping that their hero would pull off the upset against reigning middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
Most boxing experts figured that Martinez’ size and awkward southpaw style would give the Puerto Rican all sorts of trouble, thus allowing Martinez to be a fairly heavy betting favorite.
What was expected to be a battle between two Hall of Fame-caliber fighters that could possibly come down to the wire quickly turned into a one-sided mauling. But the person doing the mauling was the smaller, lighter Cotto and it was never close.
Cotto cracked “Maravilla” with a perfect left hook moments into the opening round and Martinez’ knees buckled. Cotto calmly charged after him and unloaded a flurry, sending the champ sprawling onto the canvas. Martinez quickly got to his feet but he was in serious trouble. Cotto charged after him again and with Martinez trying to stay safe but on unsteady legs, he was virtually a sitting duck. Cotto fired a right hand that dropped him a second time moments later and Martinez was in serious peril of being the victim of a shocking first-round knockout.
When the Argentinean star rose the second time, his right knee was visibly damaged. Martinez couldn’t put the proper weight onto it and was quickly sent to the canvas again from a Cotto left hand. After struggling to his feet, the end was near but somehow Martinez hung on and was saved by the bell. In a matter of mere seconds, the smaller underdog was on the verge of a dramatic finish.
Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KOs) was limping badly for the first few rounds and was rocked several more times throughout the contest, but he fought back as best he could. Cotto never over-extended himself and instead kept a perfect distance for his punches and cut the ring off in textbook fashion. Cotto led and countered beautifully round after round, disallowing Martinez to ever get into a rhythm. Cotto’s left hook was the perfect foil for whatever Martinez tried inside the ring and it seemed like a matter of time before Martinez was again off his feet.
With his foe moving away for much of the second half of the contest, Cotto was cruising toward a likely lopsided unanimous decision. Cotto cracked him cleanly in every round and Martinez’ face eventually became swollen and battered. Finally, Cotto scored a flash knockdown late in the ninth from a left hook when Martinez’ glove hit the canvas. He wasn’t terribly wobbled by the punch, but the writing was already on the wall.
In between rounds nine and 10, Martinez was begging his corner the entire rest period not to stop the mugging but as soon as the tenth stanza began, his corner waived it off. With the official time of :06 into the 10th, the fight was over and Martinez’ middleweight crown was wrested away. Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs) became the linear and world-recognized middleweight champion and the title gave him a championship in a fourth different weight class; no other Puerto Rican fighter had ever achieved that total.
“This is the biggest achievement of my entire career,” a stoic Cotto said afterward.
By far it was the biggest achievement of his career but the real story is how sensational he looked. Cotto had never looked better in any fight thus far and he credits Freddie Roach for how brilliant he was against Martinez.
Cotto said he wanted to take a rest and spend time with his family; he was non-committal to who his next opponent would be.
As for Martinez, he took the loss proudly and made no excuses.
“I got hit with a good left hand and I was cold and I couldn’t recover from that,” the disappointed Argentinean great said through a translator. “He just caught me cold; very hard in the beginning and I just couldn’t recover from it.”
On the stoppage, Martinez praised his team for doing the right thing. “My trainer sees things from the outside and much clearer than I do so I have to respect his decision [to stop the contest],” he added.